For years, intellectuals—particularly the academic variety—have proclaimed their solidarity with “the working class” but for one of them, this self-identification goes much deeper. In the November-December issue of Academe, English professor Marc Bousquet  finds the lot of a professor analogous to that of the slaves in the television miniseries Spartacus.
“Certainly some of its viewers tune in for the objectified porn-star bodies of the actors,” he writes. “But they stay because they identify with the characters in the story.”
“I think it’s worth trying to understand this identification, in large part because it seems to be an identification with a mode of exploitation similar to our own.” Academe is a journal published by the American Association of University Professors. Bousquet teaches English at Emory.
Moreover, to be fair, academics engage in their fair share of debates but this pedagogue thinks he’s a gladiator. “The show invites identification with the gladiators on the supposition that the viewers are also imprisoned by their own pursuit of affective compensation,” Bousquet claims. “Our motivations (teaching for love, serving the community, bringing about the good society, and so on) are prime examples of psychic compensation.”
“Our superdiscounted wages likewise exemplify the cost of accepting it.” It is worth noting that graduate students preparing to enter the higher education workforce live a fairly Spartan existence. I know of few who do not survive on a regular diet of hot dogs or Ramen noodles. Nevertheless, teaching is, as former Senator Bob Dole described the vice-presidency, “Indoor work with no heavy lifting.”
Back to Bousquet. Interestingly, his students see themselves in a type of servitude. Some of those pupils in his last post at Santa Clara University went public with their reactions, albeit anonymously.
In their reviews on Rate My Professor.com , the word “condescending” appears more than once, as in:
- “It would be nice for Mr. Bousquet to show up to more classes than his students. Additionally, his constant quotation of himself (to the student populace) does not strengthen ethos, but verifies his overwhelming condescension;”
- “Don’t expect to learn how to write, and he is EXTREMELY condescending. Overall, an easy teacher because he just talks about his accomplishments all the time, and thinks his course is hard so cuts you some slack;” and
- “He is condescending and no one ever knows what he is talking about.”
Bousquet, who also taught at Indiana University, is the author of How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation.
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia .
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